Monday, December 14, 2015

Fourteen Going on 40: An Open Letter to the First Man to Call Me Beautiful

By Anonymous

“Mia bella,” you said. “I love you.”

It made me uneasy. When you told me to say it back, I was afraid. When you told me not to tell, I was terrified. If I said five years later I’m not scared anymore, I would be lying. I’m suspicious of any man who’s not significantly younger than I am. 

For five years now, plus one day, you’ve overtaken me. You’ve bitten my nails and gritted my teeth and carved deep into my skin. 

You taught me that love was controlling. Love was fear and anxiety and depression. It was giving in and giving up. It was lying and fake smiles and falling grades. Love was hating myself. It was falling asleep on the bathroom floor. It was shamefully leaving every meal to bow down to the toilet bowl and watch the numbers on the scale go up and down.

You taught me that keeping secrets was better than walking into school to get shoved into lockers and called a slut and a whore and a home-wrecker. Keeping secrets was better than getting dumped. Keeping secrets was better than watching myself become a news story.

Keeping secrets was better than being blamed for my stupidity. Keeping secrets was better than watching my dad cry.

You taught me what a sociopath was. You taught me how a predator’s eyes shine with insatiable hunger.

You taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know yet.

But you also taught me empathy.

You taught me how to see past another person’s defenses because I had built up so many of my own. Fighting back was not an option, at least not a good one. You taught me that it is better to meet insults with kind words, anger with happiness, and stubbornness with patience.

Working myself up to bring someone else down isn’t worth it.

You taught me to see fear behind bright eyes. But you also taught me to see light and naivety behind dark suspicion.

Most importantly, you taught me to teach myself.

I’ve learned how to be the bigger, better person. I’ve learned how to cry and not feel ashamed. I’ve learned that I’m not fighting this battle alone; I’m striving for a world without fight.

I’ve learned that wounds heal, and while scars don’t disappear, they certainly fade and there comes a time when they’re no longer a reminder of the past, but of the future I chose to have.

I’ve learned to stand up for myself. I’ve learned to be myself.

I’ve learned that you taught me the wrong meaning of “I love you.” He’s kind, and caring, and sees beyond the countless walls I’ve built up. He knows my past and who I am. He taught me the meaning of “I love you,” and it is not full of shame and secrets.

I’ve learned to open up. It’s not so bad to put myself out there sometimes. As horribly cliché as it is, every time the sun sets it promises to rise again in the morning. Darkness doesn’t last forever. I’ve learned that.

Life should not be a power struggle, but it often is. The thing is though, I have to have power over myself. My life is not about you, it’s about me. Growing up isn’t easy on the calendar’s time. It’s even harder when forced to grow up faster. Even then…maturity isn’t such a bad thing. Sometimes bad things aren’t always bad things. They’re opportunities to grow and see the strength that was already there. You’ve given me opportunities not to fight the world, but to try and save it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Peace means Community

By John Stratton

Last night (Dec 8) about fifty people—students and community members—gathered around the flag pole on the AU campus for a silent vigil remembering the victims of mass shootings. It was mostly silent. There was some chatting, some singing, and a little speaking, but it was a time of reflection on the shootings that are filing the newscasts and the headlines.

We lit candles, but it was hard to keep them lit in the chilly breeze. We turned to each other to relight them, and often the candle that had just been relit was used to relight the other candle that had itself just gone out.

That lighting, relighting, and relighting of the candles is a powerful metaphor for community. We lit and relit each other's candles without thinking that in another moment our candle would need to be relit. We kept the community bright, not by building a single giant candle but by keeping all the candles lit. We held back the darkness because we each were holding candles and helping others keep their candles going.

We were a small group acting out, in a small way, the meaning of community. It is a model for all us—to light and relight each other's candles, while knowing that someone will relight ours if we need it.

John Stratton is a member of the steering committee and emeritus director of ACN.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Prerequisite for Peace

By Andrew Kinney

Tonight, on Ashland University’s quad, we’ll gather to honor the victims of violence and make silent protest to recent threats of violence. Prayer and community can be powerful strategies in times of terror.

The recent uproar over “prayer shaming” (we would do well to recognize our own constant struggles moving from good intention to appropriate action) misunderstands the purpose and function of prayer. Still, in this time of social upheaval and national angst, those of us who pray may wonder if we’re doing it right. We may wonder if we are talking, like Ginsberg, to ourselves again.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Let's Come Together for a Vigil for Peace

The Ashland Center for Nonviolence is planning a candlelight vigil for tomorrow 
in response to recent mass shootings.

Everyone is welcome.

Tuesday, 12/8 at 8pm
Meet at the Flagpole in the Ashland University Quad

Friday, December 4, 2015

Understanding Our Gun Culture: 2017 Conference Theme Announced

The United States reportedly has more gun deaths and more guns per capita than any other developed country. It is also estimated that there are now more guns than people in the U.S. Now, as mass shootings seem to have become routine, the political climate has settled into clear camps of those who advocate stricter gun controls and those who oppose them. ACN hopes to improve and enrich these and other discussions through its 2017 annual conference, "Understanding Our Gun Culture."

"Something clearly has to change," says Craig Hovey, executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence. "Everyone agrees that there's too much gun violence in the United States. But we're deeply divided on how to address it. I don't think we should be afraid of disagreement, but as H. Richard Niebuhr once said, the first question isn't 'What should we do?' but 'What is going on?' The conference is meant to lead to a smarter discourse about American gun culture by helping us understand it."

Understanding Our Gun Culture conference
March 31 - April 1, 2017
Ashland University

More details will follow. 

Don't forget to REGISTER for our 2016 conference on Sports and Violence.