No System Can Stop Me

This is a scholarship essay in response to the prompt “How will you create generational change in your community?” Out of over 700 entries I was awarded with second place.

No System Can Stop Me

3678 Fuller Ave. NE, 49525 Grand Rapids, MI                                                Carson McCready

(616)401-6303                                                                                        Northview High School

Twelfth grade

November 8, 2016

Like the angelic activist, Rosa Parks, I am an ordinary woman. Living in the conservative state of Michigan, I stand for the justice and equality of my people. I am a small fish in a big pond just like everyone else. However, I swim against the current with members of my generation to promote change in the world, despite our pond’s political pollution. The strength behind our collective yet nonconforming group has clear impenetrable power and zeal. There will always be something to keep us going. Uniquely to myself, there is something in my soul that anchors me to never stop promoting change, even when the system of government voices their well-intended plans to squash the voice out of my windpipe. But my voice will never be silenced. And because of this, I will forever promote change within my community and with the help of fellow activists; until my last breath. I will do this by refusing to be silenced and involving myself in the politics under which I am governed.

It is Paul McCartney who earns the credit for the quote “Think globally, act locally.” What this means to me is that our thoughts should not stay in our comforting bubble of ignorance. There is an entire world outside our home, town, state, and country. It is unacceptable to stay silent about the oil spill in Peru or the women of Saudi Arabia not allowed to drive a car. Our silence takes the side of the oppressor. However, no single act fixes a global problem like pollution or gender rights. What does fix situations are local acts of correction. By using our voice, we can inform. We are the technological generation and we must utilize that. We can tell our peers about the injustices of the world, leading to a more awake youth. By using our voice, we vote. Our youth will vote on these injustices and in that way, we will promote change. By using our voice, we advocate. Our eyes now open, our votes now counting, we have promoted change. Even our losses make us stronger in that they inspire us to work harder as soon as the chance occurs.

Though I am seventeen years old and therefore unable to vote, the way I partake in the discussion of government is by being captain of my school’s debate team. As an affirmative team member, my partner and I devise a plan to somehow create change in the world through foreign policy. These plans are supported by credible evidence, most often having a heavy advantage of Human Rights. No matter the topic, our plan is always careful to increase happy relations between sovereign states and avoid any type of conflict whatsoever. This includes war. These past four years of being involved in the debate team with my amazing coaches and peers have encouraged me to pursue politics as a career in my adulthood. There is something special and fulfilling about making the world a better, more friendly place.

Being an activist is not a cake walk. We do not float through the lives of the oppressed, granting wishes like righteous fairies. Activists – at least those as dedicated as I – will reach the ends of the Earth to find justice. We do not always win and our failures may bruise us. But the feelings that we fall asleep with of fear and resentment towards a stubbornly unchanging world are always metamorphosed into feelings of motivation and determination, our bruises magically healed. I believe Rosa Parks felt similarly based on her honest words “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” There is a spark within us. It only takes so long until we are struck as matches on the rough surface of life as an oppressed group. Every bag of sleep sand our oppressors throw in our face is a splash of icy water down our neck. No system of oppression perpetuated by society can stop me. I will not choke on sand; I welcome the icy water.

My resilience is like that of the non-profit organization, Planned Parenthood, where I volunteer every other Thursday. This is my favorite way of being active in my community to promote change. Planned Parenthood was founded October 16, 1916 by Margaret Sanger and we celebrate our one-hundred-year anniversary here in 2016. There have been many occasions when the system of government has expressed discrimination against this organization, and therefore discrimination against women’s rights. But because of the support of our loyal donators, nothing has ever stopped us from providing safe and affordable health care. No system can stop Planned Parenthood, and no system can stop me. I stand with Planned Parenthood because it stands with me. My support will be unwavering, my voice never crumbling. As soon as I met with Julie, the communications manager for the organization, I knew non-profit was a place I belonged by her enthusiasm for her cause. She is the messenger who spreads information. She is the voice for an organization she stands for. The mere idea of filling those footsteps is exhilarating.

When I express my commitment to activism to my peers and those older than me, I am often presented with the question “Well what do you advocate for?” My activism is inclusive to all socioeconomic and environmental issues. Only with inclusion can equality and fairness be achieved.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. informed us that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” A government that is xenophobically racist and misogynistically sexist spreads its evil through foreign and domestic policy.

Ever since I learned to speak, I had something to say. My voice has never – and will never – be silenced. For my voice to be heard I will continue my work at Planned Parenthood and advocate on social media, as is my responsibility as a youth. My work as a debater will continue and my determination will lead me to a position in politics. My promotion of change may be small in my youth, but my impact will be large. No system can stop me.

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Liberty: A Seed of Sovereignty

This is a scholarship essay I wrote in response to the prompt “What does ‘liberty’ mean today?”

LIBERTY: A SEED OF SOVEREIGNTY

    Liberty is not synonymous with Freedom, despite their similarities in implications. Freedom is a theoretically measurable power to proclaim and endeavor. It is the state of being free, as opposed to confinement, external control, or interference. Freedom is actually closer in meaning to today’s connotation of privilege: it is something that can be given. This implies that it can also be taken away. Liberty, however, is something inside a person. Like freedom, liberty implies being free from certain kinds of control, but Liberty also means something more. Liberty today is defined as an authority over the self and a personal lack of societal restriction. Liberty is a goal. Movements throughout history have demonstrated that liberty is worth fighting for as a personal journey walked with many people who share ideas. Liberty starts with the self and ends with everyone else around the world.

An individual can have liberty over nearly anything. People have the liberty to buy groceries at the store of their choice, or purchase a home in the state, city, and neighborhood of their preference – given that they possess the monetary resources. Liberty exists within the people simply as the power to make choices, a sovereignty of the self. This is an idea promoted by the third-wave feminist movement. A person’s body belongs only to the self, and what each of us does with – or to – that body it is entirely up to us. Goals of today’s feminism expand beyond the suffragettes’ goals for political equality, and expand into topics including intersectionality, sexual liberation, and economic balance. The brave women who led the first feminist movements allowed the seed of progress to grow within them, and while their branches provided shade for those without the seed, their fruit spread to the minds of many. The shade of progressive branches also provided shelter from the patriarchal sunshine for the women whom had no idea they had been squinting and sweating all their lives. By chain reaction, eventually an army of trees were pollinated even if their roots were embedded in stubborn cement.

The growth of an enlightened seed is displayed eloquently in Kate Chopin’s novella, The Awakening (1899). Considered by many to be the first American feminist novel, The Awakening was extremely controversial for repelling traditional gender and social norms. As the protagonist’s “inward contemplation” grows into a realization of her own oppression, there is a collection of consecutive events in which Edna Pontellier displays her power of choice. The development of society has exceeded that of 1899 when The Awakening was censored for immorality, and the liberty that Edna exercises over going on an outing and painting as an expression of emotion are liberties accessible to most women today. However, today’s women face new challenges that require new fights for personal sovereignty. These challenges include struggling to maintain authority over what we put or keep in our uteruses, or being hypersexualized whether we are wearing a bikini or burka. Once again we find our personal Liberty threatened as our voices are marginalized and even dismissed.

Nevertheless, squashed voices have demanded to be heard before, and they will demand to be heard for as long as it takes for those voices to be triumphant. Liberty will stubbornly thrive due to a persistently steady rise in personal awakenings in young women around the world about their rights over themselves. The solution to these challenges begins the same way so many other solutions to social challenges have begun: with the seed of Liberty. Only by nourishing that seed of personal liberty–by realizing that we have the agency to make our choices in ways that will help ourselves and others–is the first stepping stone to a world-wide garden of insurgent, independent choice and awakened, autonomous thought.

Is This Generation Too Sensitive?

First off I’m going to clarify what I mean by “this generation.” Generalizing an entire demographic is risky because there will always be exceptions and outliers and contributing factors that could arguable prove whatever is claimed as incorrect. The generation this post targets is often accused of being lazy, self-centered, and sensitive by the generation preceding them. Over sensitivity is actually a label that two generations share, which could mean the population is becoming more involved in their feelings, or this accusation is caused by the confusion of which generation is which. Multiple generations do overlap since there isn’t a set rule of when a generations start and end. Generation Y, commonly referred to as Millennials, have births from 1980 to 1995, and range of the ages 22 to 37. This is the generation who saw were starting their careers during the 2008 recession, and are currently battling the giant amount of inflation of housing prices. Most of the following generation, Generation Z, is still in school and have grown up with normalization of controversial subjects like the legalization of gay marriage and the first black president in American history. This generation was born between 1996 and 2010, with ages ranging from 7 all the way to 21. Gen Z is often accuse of thinking they are too special for regular treatment, and is therefore often referred to as the “ME” generation. source

The thing about this generation™ is that we really are sensitive. We do want safe spaces and vegetarian options on menus. This could be, perhaps, just a thought, because we aren’t fond of being around racists, sexists, and homophobes (titles the previous generation is often labeled as) so we prefer places we don’t feel afraid, as is a human’s survival instinct. Really, you could call xenophobic places with signs saying “WHITES ONLY” qualify as safe spaces too. Also, meat production is one of the leading causes of pollution and world hunger. Admittedly though, the youth that is Gen Z is sensitive about trivial things, like being treated as a kid when we first start working at a minimum wage job and the importance of gluten free hot dog buns. We really are focused on the “me” in the “mess” that is the people of the United States.

However, desensitization is just as much of an issue as over sensitivity. We are so overly desensitized to man-made disasters like what’s happening in Flint and school shootings. Along with child porn, the death of art, the wage gap, plastic consumption, dying bees, police brutality, the erasure of the middle class, gentrification and health care. Unless people experience it first hand or it’s an internet trend, people don’t talk about it.

That is why the hyper-sensitivity of our generation is wrong. Because it’s about our poor hurt sad privileged feelings. “You called me a bitch, you’re oppressing me.” “You called me racist, you’re taking away my free speech.” Grow up, my dudes. Don’t fall prey to microaggressions. Don’t fall prey to people on the internet who create offensive memes. Internet bantering is, guess what, a form of media oppression. Because you’re using your own personal energy to try to win an argument you only care about because you want to be right. If you put that much energy into recycling cans, you would be saving the environment and you could donate the money to, maybe, the cause you’re fighting over.

Life Update

I didn’t think it was important for me to write posts about myself and what’s going on in my life but after reading my post “First blog post” (which isn’t even properly capitalized) I figured I should make a post to at least capture how much cooler and together I am now.

Here in Michigan I’m in my senior year of high school and will be 18 in late August. After high school I’ll be attending Grand Rapids Community College part-time for two years in order to gain my Associate’s of Arts with an MTA. I’m currently enrolled in two summer courses and plan to take summer courses next year as well in order to be able to stay a part-time student and be able to have a local job. I would have gone straight to a four-year university but money was a deciding factor. But I realized something. I am so young. Young people fresh out of high school are expected to know exactly who they want to be and where they want to go after being in an education system that actively attempts to make us all the same: products of society. Where is our originality supposed to come from? Then we’re thrown into a study for another four years and when we get out we still don’t know who we are or who we’ve been trying to sculpt ourselves to be. I know that I want to major in Communication Studies and minor in Political Science but from there the road splits into many potential and enticing directions. A young person shouldn’t be expected to know the life they’ll be reflecting back on in their eighties while they’re still in their teens.

Anyway after CC I’ll transfer to Grand Valley State University where my boyfriend is currently going to school as a History major (so I guess we know who will be making the money in our house). From there I have not yet formulated a plan. And why should I?

Fresh Start

It has been a really long time since I’ve posted anything. I think my last post was in August or something. I hadn.t posted in so long for a number of reasons. I went back to school, Seasonal Affect Disorder kicked in, and I began to seriously doubt myself as a writer. I was intimidated by my own potential and other bloggers out there. There are some bloggers who don’t even have to edit what they type before posting it, and some bloggers have a natural talent for aesthetic blog layouts. But I was comparing someone else’s middle to my beginning. And where did that get me? Back to square one with my blogging skills totally fried.

I know that isn’t proper blogger etiquette so I apologize to my current readers, future readers, and myself. I’m apologizing to myself because this blog really is intended for me. I barely have more than two followers, who am I trying to impress? Just myself. I want to use this blog to practice writing and have a place to express myself. Thus, as of now, this blog is for posting about anything I want yet still maintain the central theme of my journey as an activist and argumentative writing. Also I need to figure out some kind of quirky send off for my posts. Something like “happy reading :)” or perhaps “continue on with the strength of a thousand feminists.” Something charming.

How to be a Free Thinker

Free thinker was a term coined during the hippie movement. Because of that, it is stereotypically understood as having groovy beliefs and loving, naturalistic core values. While this may be true for some, the realistic definition for ‘free thinker’ is an individual who is able to alter or change their beliefs based on new information presented to them. An example being if I used canola oil for cooking all my life but a credible vegan blog told me virgin olive oil was better for me, I would switch to virgin olive oil. This is easy to do with cooking, but harder to do with very personal beliefs such as the normality of homosexuality. We have to realize though that being a free thinker is beneficial to ourselves and the people around us as it makes the world a more accepting place. So here are five ways to become more of a free thinker.
1. Evaluate your core values

Core values are ideas that are most important to you – love, family, wealth, spirituality, success, giving, and so on. If your core values are ones like love and justice, you may feel that gay marriage is right to be legalized. If you feel it should not, perhaps because of your religion, then your core values may be spirituality and conformity. Recognizing that one or some of your core values hinder your ability to think freely and correcting this is one of the first steps to being a free thinker.

2. Learn to Listen

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. You may hear your mom tell you to take out the trash, but that doesn’t mean you’ll do it. Listening is about understanding what you hear. If you listen to your mom tell you to take out the trash, you’ll make a mental note that she wants you to do it, and you will. Another key to listening is paraphrasing your conversation partner’s statement once they finish speaking. Your statements will start as “What I hear you saying is…” or maybe “So I understand you mean…” This makes your conversation partner feel validated and gives them the chance to clarify any misunderstandings. This will help to prevent tension or aggression from common, honest misunderstandings.

3. Don’t Talk to the Same People About the Same Issues

Having a close knit inner circle is completely fine. There’s nothing wrong with being introverted either. However, you have to get out there. Go to poetry events, Grand Rapids Pride, college, wherever. Let information penetrate your mind bubble.

4. Find a Life Motto

My personal life motto is “if it isn’t hurting anyone, it’s okay.” Women wearing hijabs? Okay. American troops killing Syrian children? Not okay. Two women in love and want to get married? Okay. Young teens killing themselves? Not okay. It’s as simple as that. Here are just a few more life mottos:

  • Do not harm and take no shit.
  • Wake up. Kick ass. Be kind. Repeat.
  • Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.
  • Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
  • I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards.

5. Learn something new every single day

Look for new information wherever you can find it. Don’t wait for it to plant itself in front of you. You can’t be woke with your eyes closed. We live in an age of information. If you are reading this right now then you are gifted with literacy. Use it! You can read the internet, posters, books, magazines, anything in the language you are comfortable with. And we let all this information blow past us every single day.

Transgender Olympian 

article inspiration

Though my parents support the rights of transgender people, I wasn’t raised forced to believe the same as them. When I was younger, before they even taught me what gender meant, I saw a news broadcast about a young person born female, who felt that he was born in the wrong body. The news story covered the dysphoria he felt trapped in a female body, and how his parents felt he was supposed to live as the girl he was born as. As a small child, I saw his suffering, and felt so sad he was born in the wrong body. It broke me small heart to see a boy crying because of something he so badly wanted to change and couldn’t. And as a child I decided that people who are not the gender they were born as, no matter who they are, deserve to feel validated and loved. They deserve the rights they were born with before they realized they were born in the wrong body. That is what happens when you allow children to decide what they believe in. They choose understanding, comparison, sympathy, and love. Congratulations to the first transgender man on team USA. You are a role model for what people like you – people facing hatred and judgment – can do.