That Which They Defend

Ok. So I’ve literally spent weeks trying to figure out how to put this into a coherent blog post because where my heart is concerned, coherency doesn’t always happen. But in light of recent threats against Muslim students at my university, my heart is aching again. So let’s start with this:

2016 was the year I learned to fight. Not just how, but that I must. Because sometimes you have to fight for who and what you love. So much shit happened – the Orlando gay nightclub shooting, the shootings of unarmed black men and women, the horrible comments coming from someone who should be a role model for an entire country – and it breaks my heart.

And in the aftermath all I could think was What can I do? I am only one person. God, show me how to love.

And I had my answer (well, part of it). I am a teacher. I don’t have a classroom yet but that’s beside the point. The point is that I know what I want my classroom to look like. I want it to be a place where anyone – regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, dis/ability, etc. – can walk in and know it’s a safe space. Know that when shit happens, this is a place we can talk about it, breathe, and try to work things through. I’m not saying I’m going to have all the answers. I won’t. And there are things I need to unlearn and things I need to learn. But to create that space where my students know they are cared about and respected. To create that space where we can all learn to use our voices to stand up for the marginalized. That is my vision.

These things that have happened, that are happening, touch people I love fiercely. And all I can say is: if “they” are coming after you, they have to go through me. And if all I can do is stand next to you and hold your hand while the stones fly, then that is what I am going to do. There is no second option.

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And that which they defend, which I defend, is you.

That’s the thing about grace… (an Easter post)

So, it’s Easter. Which means I’ve been thinking about grace a lot more than usual.

What do I mean by grace? The simplest explanation I can give for it is this:

God’s grace looks at what we deserve, and offers us what we don’t.

Grace isn’t pretty.

It isn’t neat.

It costs.

Grace is uncomfortable. Grace isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty. It reaches down into the muck, gets all the dirt under its fingernails, and hauls you up again. Grace is God saying, “The world wants nothing to do with you. But I do.”

King David in the Old Testament: had his captain Uriah murdered so he could marry Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. He repented and God redeemed him.

The Apostle Paul: ordered Christians tortured and executed. Redeemed and became one of the greatest apostles.

And the list goes on. Seriously, the Bible is full of really sketchy characters. Sketchy characters and broken people who were granted grace and went on to flip their lives right around.

This is the grace I believe in. The grace I have seen. This is the grace I write about.

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Happy Easter.

She’s beauty, she’s grace (she’ll punch you in the face)

Disclaimer: my thesis is about women in Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse texts and how awesome they are. So yes, I’m biased. What follows is the ramblings of a grad student in love with her subject matter and Agent Peggy Carter.

 

In my thesising today, I was examining the Old English poem Judith which is based on the apocryphal Latin Vulgate text. For those who don’t know the story, the Jewish city of Bethulia is being besieged by the evil general Holofernes. Long story short, the city is saved by Judith who uses her femininity to seduce* the general and subsequently cut off his head. He gets drunk and passes out in her presence.

An interesting variation on this tale is found in The Saga of Hrolf Kraki. Queen Olof pretends to go along with her evil suitor, only to stab him with a sleep thorn when he passes out, drunk, in her chamber. She then tars and feathers him and sends him off packed up in a burlap sack. I kid you not.

Then there’s Jael and Sisera. In the book of Judges, Sisera is a general attacking the Israelites. The judge at the time, Deborah, leads Barak and the Hebrew army to victory, but Sisera escapes. He arrives at Jael’s tent and she offers him hospitality, though he doesn’t know she’s a Hebrew. When he’s asleep, she drives a tent peg through his skull.

And I started noticing a trend. You’d think they’d learn. If you’re an evil general/king/person, do not pass out in the presence of a woman. It will not end well for you. I guarantee it.

Which brings me, perhaps in a not-so-round-about-way to Agent Peggy Carter**. This character means a lot to me***. Not only is Hayley Atwell a dream (I had the ridiculously amazing pleasure of meeting her at Comiccon last summer in a brief 10 second photoshoot, and it remains the HIGHLIGHT of my Comiccon experience), but the character is unashamedly feminine while still kicking ass. She knows her value and retains her moral compass despite all the war took from her. And I love that. And I love that the writers of the show understand that love and romance and happily ever after do not undermine that. With so much media in the atmosphere, it’s hard to escape the still-present message that a woman is incomplete without a man, or that she needs to look or act a certain way, etc. And here we have the brilliant Peggy Carter putting her fist through it all and saying You are enough. And when love does come calling****, she reaches for it as a whole person which makes it so much more beautiful*****.

And this is something I love about the heroines I’m studying, some of whom I’ve mentioned. They say loudly through their actions that They are enough and that they, as women, will get the job done. Any job.

As Shakespeare put it so eloquently, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

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grace

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(all gifs from: http://ctgraphy.tumblr.com/post/109153691032/fitzwich-inspired-guess-what-i-started)

 

Peace out.

 

 

*the OE text is rather uneasy with Judith’s sexuality in this regard and downplays it to a certain extent while the Vulgate makes no bones about it. Just fyi.

**If you’re not watching Agent Carter then what are you even doing with your life?

***As in, she’s up there with Eowyn and Jane Eyre, but those are whole other blog posts and I’ll get to them eventually. 😛

****In the form of the delightful Daniel Sousa. Talk about a beautiful love story. *melts*married

*****I was totally grinning and cheering like an idiot during the final moments of the season finale (um…sorry Jack). NOW I NEED SEASON 3 DAMMIT.

Not “if” but “how”: Thoughts on HEA

HEA: Happily Ever After

I’m going to preface this by saying: not every story needs or will have a happy ending. Sometimes it’s not in the story. And that’s fine. I have a few of those up my sleeve and I’ve read some exquisite stories with sad/tragic endings. Buffy springs to mind. Love that show* and Joss Whedon is a genius.

However.

I’ve been watching a lot of TV and movies from the 80s** and 90s this holiday and I’ve noticed something. The stories they tell are fun***. At the end of the day your favourite characters survive. At the end of the day the good guys win and the bad guys lose. At the end of the day, the guy gets the girl/the girl gets the guy and they get to live happily ever after. And you get to just feel good when you switch off the telly****.

And I love that.

And yet it seems that since then, there’s been a shift in how we tell stories. Optimism has been given backseat to gritty realism with endings that are darker and maybe not completely happy. For example, the original Star Wars trilogy was wonderful – everybody lived and lived happily ever after. The James Bond films of the 90s***** are over-the-top fun while Brosnan still brings depth to the character. Contrast this with the newer Bond films which, while I do enjoy them, are much darker and it’s questionable as to whether or not anyone except Bond will actually survive.

And it came to me that I’m not interested in if my favourite characters will survive. I’m interested in how they survive. I’m interested in how they get through sh*t and how they live after the dust has settled (and yes, I’m still bitter about Remus and Tonks in Harry Potter).

Which brings me to a sub-point. I’m tired of stories that bring the couple together only to tear them apart for some reason later on down the road. I assume it’s meant to add tension, but to me it falls flat. Show me a love story where the characters have each other’s backs and work through sh*t together. Show me characters who argue and make up. It might take them awhile to get there, but once they’ve got there for the love of all things stop breaking them up. Show me how they stay together. Show me how they fight for each other. See REMINGTON STEELE and CASTLE.

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I’m a believer in hope. And those are the stories I write. Bad stuff will inevitably happen (current novel is very dark and very twisted and my characters hate me so much right now…), but I believe in hope and happily ever after. And I’m reminded of the very last line from EVER AFTER******:

 

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So on that note, have a wonderful new year. May it be one of hope.

 

Slàinte!

 

 

 

——————-

*Team Spike, yo.

**REMINGTON STEELE FTW. And if you have never seen this show you need to rethink your life. Stephanie Zimbalist. Pierce Brosnan. She’s a P.I. He’s an ex-con. They solve cases. There’s romance with insane chemistry. Hijinks. Comedy. Heart. Drama. And lots of kissing.

***There are exceptions. I’m just talking generally. And yes, the academic in me is screaming. But I’m on holiday so I’ve gagged it. 😉

****I have been known to channel British expressions. Just fyi. Also, pun not intended.

*****Aaaaaand haters to the left. Brosnan is my Bond.

The name is Bond. James Bond.
              The name is Bond. James Bond.

******Drew Barrymore. Dougray Scott. Anjelica Huston. 1998. A Cinderella Story. Funny. Romantic. Feel good. Timeless. You want to watch this.