Tag Archives: resistance

Curse With Care

As a mother of three, raising two sons and one daughter into adulthood, I grappled with the expected challenges of their developing speech — too loud, too soft, your turn to talk, your turn to listen, let’s find words. As they grew older, words became more complicated, especially during their high school years in The South. I stepped in several times, not with my children, but with their friends. A handful of teenagers (all Caucasian and male) thought it was “cool” (or worse, normal) to drop homophobic, transphobic or racially bigoted comments. Invariably, they were startled when I explained that in my home, hate-speech wasn’t allowed. But they were more surprised by my attitude toward cursing. They expected cussing to be outlawed, a transgression under any circumstance. Instead, I chose a different approach: Curse with care.

Cursing in itself doesn’t offend me, but it carries responsibility. The speaker needs to take into account many factors. The environment needs to be okay with it. All words, including curse words, should serve a productive purpose. Curse words should never be used as weapons — to shock, to offend, to frighten, to intimidate. Curse words carry more risk than other vocabulary, so those specific words need to be chosen with extra care.

Since Anthony Scaramucci’s ten days in President Trump’s inner circle, I’ve been thinking about curse words. As a liberal democrat, I’ve struggled with the values and policies of Donald Trump’s White House since he took office. I wasn’t surprised to find myself appalled by Mr. Scaramucci’s beliefs. But I was quite surprised at how deeply offensive I found his language. My reaction caught me off guard because bluntly: I’m hard to offend with curse words.

Just like there are different styles of speaking, there are different styles of cursing. My problem was not Anthony Scaramucci’s words in themselves. It was the context, the layers, the implications, the undercurrent. He trash-talked people simply because he could, which is a type of bullying behavior. He was provocative for the shock factor, which is a form of using words as weapons. He was pointlessly crude, which is just plain obnoxious.

As a writer, words are my tools of the trade. I consider every sound, inflection, meaning, rhythm, cadence. I include curse words in my writing, but only when they make sense. I think carefully, choosing words that are true to the character and necessary for the integrity of the story.

Words matter. So I try to write and speak with care. And always, to curse with care.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a blogger and author of two novels. Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, follows Caroline Black through tenth grade as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy blogs about a variety of subjects including the resistance, parenting, LGBTQ+ ally support and a Rolling Stones concert. She also collaborates with educators who include her work in their curriculum. 

To learn more about Amy’s novels, visit her Author Page on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under anthony scaramucci, curse words, language, resistance, Uncategorized

Watergate Through Adolescent Eyes

I was almost fourteen years old in 1972, when President Richard Nixon’s outreach team was caught breaking into Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The people initially arrested were not the expected drunken thugs or misguided activists or hormone-driven adolescents. In fact, they were — there’s no other word — weird. They had ties to the CIA (Huh???). One had a phone number with a line to the White House (What???). And the Watergate investigation was launched.

Watching the coverup unravel through adolescent eyes, I had more important things on my mind. I had just transferred to a new school. I was meeting boys. I didn’t like my math teacher. As a general rule, I relegated politics to adults, who (in my considered opinion) often missed the mark and caused all sorts of unnecessary problems.

Still, Watergate was in a different league.

I remember my father’s initial reaction. Dad was extremely liberal, fiercely progressive, a strong voice for social justice. He was loud, charismatic, a gifted storyteller, never at a loss for words, many of them unprintable. His speech included the most creative and percussive array of curse words I’ve ever heard. When the news of the Watergate break-in was broadcast, we all listened, riveted. Then Dad turned to face our family. His eyes were bright with a focused concentration, and I could see the wheels turning. Incredulity. Outrage. Dawning comprehension. Then in a strangely quiet voice, he said simply: “This is big.”

As the investigation continued, I don’t remember much discussion of Watergate among my high school friends. We were focused on the fistfight at recess between two gang members, a popular girl’s latest boyfriend crisis, our spectacularly annoying English teacher. Sure, we took a brief moment to think about each breaking news report, but we weren’t concerned about the ripples, the ramifications, the implications. Watergate was a reality show — high drama, absurd to the max, another pyrotechnic display created by the adult world.

From the beginning, the political outcome of Watergate seemed inevitable to me, and I was impatient with the due process that the adults deemed vital. One way or another, Richard Nixon was going to crash, so I figured he might as well get on with it. I began to watch Gerald Ford carefully, thinking that he must be searching deep within, quietly preparing to take over the presidency years before he planned. As a girl raised with the values of liberal democrats, I was no fan of Gerald Ford’s political views. But my heart went out to him as a person, and I had to admire his courage.

Now as I watch the events unfold surrounding the current administration, I feel the endpoint, like Watergate, is inevitable. Yet this time, the events are going to reach so far and so deep into our president’s A, B and C Teams that I have no idea who will step up to run our country. My heart goes out to none of them; they’ve been too cruel to too many. I see several potential leaders in our government, but none appointed or chosen by our current president. I’m as impatient to know the outcome as I was at fifteen. But now I view due process as extremely vital, an opinion my 14-to-15-year-old self did not share. So I’m continuing to write my resistance, to watch carefully, to wait impatiently.

This is big.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, is a strong voice for social justice, following a group of friends through one year of high school as they grapple with homophobic bullying, racial issues, gender equality, the value of diversity. Amy’s second novel, Tightwire, follows the same main character through her first year as a psych intern, working with a stormy, talented, troubled young man, with a past filled with secrets that haunt him. This story is about the importance of becoming your full self, and shows the human capacity to heal from adversity. To check out Amy’s books, read her reviews, find her recent blog posts— click on the link to her author page.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under Hearings on Russia, impeachment, resistance, Uncategorized, watergate

Who Cares

I had never unfriended anyone on Facebook for stating an opinion different from my own. Opinions provide the foundation of my country, and I’m a big fan of free expression in the marketplace of ideas. Until recently, the only folks I unfriended were using Facebook as a dating app, and I’m not interested in dating (happily married, thanks anyway). But around a month before the presidential election, I unfriended someone due to two words. His post stopped me in my tracks: “Who cares if women are being groped.”  He went on to state that other issues were more important. So he and I were gearing up to cast our votes in opposite directions. Although I truly believe his vote was a terrible mistake, that wasn’t my problem. My problem was the first two words: Who Cares.

I wish I understood. Does he not care if women (or men) are sexually assaulted? Does he not care if someone brags about sexually assaulting women, and then cheerfully (or obnoxiously) goes on to become the leader of the free world?  Does he not care about opinions that challenge his own convictions? I’d like to understand exactly what he doesn’t care about, and why. Most of all, I’d like to understand what it would take for him to care.

I’ve heard many people under many circumstances dismiss assaultive behavior with a Who Cares approach. “It happened so long ago.” ”We were only kids” (or teenagers or adults). “These things happen all the time.” “It only happened once” (or four or thirteen times). “It was just talk.” “It was just a text.” “It was just sex.” “It’s not a big deal.”

But actually, it is a big deal.

As I write this piece, the United States of America is anything but united.  In fact, we’re dangerously divided. I see neighbors, friends, families, communities turning against each other. I don’t know how the Un-United States will climb out of this mess, but perhaps my Facebook-ex-friend holds the key.  I don’t know whether care is enough to cement our country’s foundation. But I do know that as long as we don’t care if women are being groped, we don’t stand a chance.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. She has published two novels: Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school — Tightwire, which follows a fictional psychology intern through her first year of training. Both novels have a strong female protagonist, and include sexual assault and healing as a subplot. Amy blogs on a variety of subjects including gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, parenting and a Rolling Stones Concert. Click on the link below to visit Amy’s Author Page.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under gender equality, hate speech, resistance, sexual equality, Uncategorized

Fire With Fire

The unrestrained hatred and rage from the White House, especially from our president, has opened the floodgates. People of all political affiliations are finding themselves unleashed, speaking and posting in ways that should be deeply offensive to us all. Democrats tend to excuse Democrats and condemn Republicans for bad behavior; Republicans tend to excuse Republicans and condemn Democrats for bad behavior. My opinion: bad behavior is bad behavior, and should not be excused or tolerated by anyone. To take it one step further, remaining thoughtful and decent in the face of our president’s hatred and rage is actually a form of resistance.

First, middle, and last — we’re all human. We carry primitive pieces within our selves. Each of us holds a beast hiding deep in our core, ready to pounce. But being human also means we have the capacity to reroute the beast, channel our most primal instincts in directions that are not only acceptable, but also for the greater good.

Non-violent resistance means fighting with civility. If we’re fighting for decency, then we have to commit to decent values, reflected in our speech and behavior, both political and personal. When our president throws a tantrum, hurls an insult, aligns himself with a shamelessly awful act, it’s hard to resist the urge to fight fire with fire, tantrum with tantrum, rage with rage, hatred with hatred. The problem: choosing to respond in kind turns our president into a role model.

I never thought my country would be in this position, and resistance is vital. So step forward, stand firm, fight, resist. But don’t allow our president to pave the way for you to become your worst self. Taking another path is a powerful choice, an expression of patriotism — another form of resistance.

___

Amy is an author and blogger. To read her reviews, find her recent blog posts, purchase a novel — click on the link to her author page.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

Amy’s Novels:

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her wealthy prep school for her local high school, which opens her world. At Hollywood High, she finds a large immigrant population, over 40 native languages, gangs, and extreme violence targeting the gay students. Caroline thrives in the diversity of her new school and finds friends who work together to navigate their school’s challenges. She also discovers a gift within herself: the ability to help others discover their own inner strength.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, 10 years later, navigates her first year of training as a psych intern. Chapters in her treatment of a talented but troubled young man are interspersed with chapters of her own personal history. This book explores how the individual and community mutually influence each other, the healing power of relationships and the importance of becoming your own whole person.

 

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Filed under activism, resistance, Uncategorized

Diversity Makes America Great

Mr. President, June 1, 2017, will go down in history as a national embarrassment. You began with silence, no acknowledgement of LGBT Pride Month. You ended by turning your back on the Paris Agreement. Through the day, I thought of your voice during the campaign: Make America Great Again. But you’re working against your own slogan, and when you step down, our country will have a spectacular mess to clean up. For now, I wish I could introduce you to some friends of mine.  They’re all in high school. They’re talented, scrappy, wonderful, flawed.  They’re gay and straight, established citizens and first-generation immigrants, several racial heritages. They’re our past and our future, the heart and soul of our country.

Caroline

Smart, intuitive, lives too much in her head. Caucasian, Jewish. Transfers from a wealthy college prep academy to Hollywood High. Discovers a gift for helping others find inner strength they never knew they had.

The Duke

Black, tall, muscular, leader of a gang. Impulsive, charismatic. Repeating his senior year of high school. To his (and Caroline’s) horror, she is assigned to tutor him. To their great surprise (since he flunked his classes and couldn’t graduate the previous year), The Duke turns out to be quite intelligent. To their even greater surprise, he and Caroline become friends.

Gary

Irish immigrant, Catholic, Caucasian. Tall, blond, muscular, broad-shouldered, a total klutz. On Hollywood High’s football team (due to his size rather than any athletic ability). Academically brilliant. Strong LGBT ally.

Vincent

Japanese American, parents lived in the internment camps as young children. Paints and writes poetry. And in case a stereotype is brewing — he’s straight. Two years ahead of Caroline and Gary in high school.

Irene

Red hair, tall and lanky, captain of Hollywood High’s basketball team. Enraged by injustice, impatient to change the world. Always ready to stand up for the underdog, speak for the voiceless.

Kayla

Black, gifted singer and academically smart. Caroline’s first friend at her new school. Bright, loyal, polite, brave. A petite girl with a huge soprano.

Valerie

Debutante, social queen at Laurel Academy For Girls, the prep school Caroline left. Gorgeous. Lives in a Beverly Hills mansion. Talented artist — oil paintings and metal sculptures. Watched her father die of a heart attack at the family dinner table. Hides a big secret.

J.D.

Caucasian. Undocumented. A student at Hollywood High, and a prostitute to survive. His dream is to pursue his education.

Mr. President, my young friends would like to know you. They’re full of fire, stepping forward to meet the world. Actually, they’re not exactly real people. They’re characters in my first novel. As adolescents, their paths intertwine and they change the course of each other’s lives. Together, they empower each other by building each other up, never by tearing each other down. Mr. President, I wish that one night, instead of posting hatred on Twitter, you’d read the novel and meet my friends. You’d see that in spite of and because of their diversity, they make America great.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The plot follows a group of friends and their dawning awareness of homophobia. The story tracks each student’s path to becoming an LGBT ally, and includes one family’s journey after a family member comes out.

Click on the link to read the first few chapters, see reviews, purchase the novel.

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Filed under LGBT Pride Month, resistance, Strength In Diversity, Uncategorized

Bridges and LGBTQ+

“Over our 22 years of service to this campus we have been privileged to work with community leaders, alumni, administrators, students of all sorts and, with some regularity, parents who appreciate the way in which we try to build bridges in a world where walls are still too common.”                                                                                                                          Doug Bauder, Director                                                                                                              LGBTQ+ Culture Center, Indiana University, Bloomington

My LGBTQ+ friends are scared and I’m angry. If you’re going to target my friends, you go through me. I’m under no delusions of my own grandeur — 5’4”, small boned, late 50s, gray hair, not the person you dread meeting in a dark alley. But my laptop is my sword and I’m committed.

It’s been a terrible few months, filled with betrayal, and my friends are afraid. They’re afraid that laws will pronounce them lesser. They feel unsafe doing something as simple as holding hands. They’re frightened that “equality” will no longer apply. They’re afraid to be themselves.

Hatred, rage and fear are reaching epidemic proportions in the United States. It’s a dangerous combination, fire and oil, flaring out of control. The beast is unleashed.

With hostility running rampant, I decided to donate 50% of my April book sale profits to an organization supporting the LGBTQ+ community. I needed to choose among several worthy organizations, and I thought long and hard. At first, I had no idea how to begin my search. Then I realized I needed to begin at the beginning: hatred, rage and fear.

As hatred, rage and fear skyrocket on college campuses, during this crucial developmental stage when values solidify, I decided to focus on that age group. I then narrowed my choices to state universities, because those institutions are accessible to more students than private institutions. I wanted to find an LGBTQ+ center that modeled decency and acceptance towards everyone, all of us. I was looking for a safe environment, empowering people to become their full selves. I wanted a place that stands tall to protect people from the worst of human nature, pack mentality,  the primitive urge to exert power by hurting others.  I wanted a place where people can relax and simply be. I also wanted an environment inclusive to the larger community, inviting people of all demographics to form a team against violence, bigotry, marginalization. Finally, I wanted a place committed not only to ongoing teaching, but also to ongoing learning.

I chose Indiana University’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center (Bloomington campus).

With Doug Bauder (Director) at the helm, The LGBTQ+ Culture Center offers a banquet of exemplary support — personal, community, artistic, medical, educational, emotional. They’ve built a culture (and yes, I love their name) where people feel safe questioning, admitting they don’t understand, searching. They welcome allies, including those who want to be allies but need guidance. Their community, within the larger university community, exemplifies educational ideals — an emotionally Safe Space, with a commitment to the No Safe Spaces perspective vital to the free exchange of ideas.

As I said, I’m angry — which distinguishes me not in the slightest. But the next step matters; now I have to choose how to handle my anger. I can pitch a fit, lash out, throw an Olympic caliber tantrum. But then I’d be feeding the culture of hatred, rage and fear. So I’m choosing a different culture. Instead, I’m going to look to Indiana University’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center as my role model. When I feel weary, discouraged, consumed with anger, I’ll remember Doug Bauder’s words: “We try to build bridges in a world where walls are still too common.”

Then I’ll regroup, focus, and write with heart and fire.                                                             ___

To learn more about IU LGBTQ+ Culture Center, click on the link.  http://glbt.indiana.edu/home.php.

Amy’s Novels:                                                                                                                       Hollywood HIgh: Achieve The Honorable  and Tightwire both have been on Amazon’s best sellers list for LGBT fiction and literature. Each novel costs only $2.99. They’re available as ebooks and can be put directly on a Kindle, or on any device (iPad, iPhone, laptop, desktop, etc.) using Amazon’s Free Reading Apps. Throughout April 2017, I’ll donate 50% of my book profits to Indiana University’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center.

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable                                                                             Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her wealthy prep school for the local public high school, which opens her world. At Hollywood High, she finds gangs, over 40 native languages, and terrible violence targeting the gay students. The story tracks a group of diverse high school friends as they confront homophobia in themselves and others, and follows one girl’s journey after she comes out to her family. This novel was written in reaction to seeing gay teens bullied in high school.

Tightwire                                                                                                                                    Caroline Black, 10 years later, navigates her first year of clinical training as a psychologist. Chapters in her treatment of a talented but stormy young man are interspersed with chapters of her own personal history. The story includes a strong friendship between two men, one gay and one straight. Two other key characters are a lesbian couple (raising two children) who become role model parents to the main character. This is a story of the importance of becoming your full self.

Amy’s Author Page — read reviews, check out recent blog posts, purchase a book. https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under Ally Support, Indiana University, Bloomington, LGBTQ+ Culture Center, LGBT, resistance