Latter-day Saint Charities recently donated $20 million to UNICEF's push for two billion vaccine doses in 196 countries by the end of the year. I applaud such an initiative. It is absolutely unacceptable for only wealthy countries to get the vaccine while the rest continue to suffer for God knows how long. Naturally, the anti-vaxxers whose existence blights this planet are confused and upset at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all over again, and I've had many opportunities to pass along my post "Follow the Prophet, Even When He Shills for Big Pharma", which has upset some of them even more. When I wrote it, I harbored no illusions that it would change anyone's mind. Trying to convince an anti-vaxxer of reality is like trying to convince a rock to do jumping jacks. I know that, and yet I've still wasted some time arguing with them, and I'm not proud of myself and I'm really trying to stop.
The best I could hope for was to cut through their mental gymnastics and rationalizations about the officiality and unambiguousness of the Church's position on vaccines, and expose them to the full force of the cognitive dissonance they warrant and deserve for knowing that it isn't run by delusional anti-science conspiracy theorists like them, and convince them to have some integrity and admit that they disagree with an official and unambiguous Church position. Even that was expecting too much of them, but I tried. At least when left-wing members disagree with the Church on something - always for reasons that are a lot less stupid - they have the cajones to say they disagree with the Church on something. They don't lie and pretend it's one guy's opinion that isn't binding on anything. Really, the logical leap from "The First Presidency ackowledged that vaccinations are a personal decision" (true) to "The First Presidency didn't endorse vaccines and encourage all members to get vaccinated" (bull) is so blatantly wrong that I'm sure even most of the anti-vaxxers making it know it's wrong. They're just trying to stave off the cognitive dissonance at all costs. And they hate me when I don't let them do that.
More than one person was upset with me for mocking the grieving parents of hundreds of thousands of children who have suffered from vaccine injuries. No, I'm mocking parents who are so stupid that if their kid gets vaccinated and then gets hit by a car two years later, they call it a vaccine injury. More than one person was upset with me for not showing Christlike love to people with a difference of opinion founded on lies that presents a constant direct threat to public health throughout the country, and especially to the lives and well-being of children whose only sin was being born to such idiots. Oh, isn't it funny how anti-vaxxers were always like "Why does my child need to get vaccinated to protect your child" but now they're pretending to know how herd immunity works? We don't need the vaccine, we need everyone in the world to get sick, several million people to die, and the healthcare system to collapse so we can achieve herd immunity. The virus has a 99.9% recovery rate with no long-term side effects or any negative outcomes besides death whatsoever, but the rate of abnormally serious side effects from the vaccine is - well, it's a lot lower than .01%, but that's still a lot because it just is! Or something. I'm only pretending to comprehend their thought process, if they have one.
Last week we workshopped the first thirteen pages of my essay "Things That Rhyme With 'Elise'", which maybe I'll post on this website and maybe I won't. And I just want to say that the workshop was a great experience for how it contrasted with my experience last time I had a class from Jennifer. Last time, as I've mentioned, I was not adapted to the flash non-fiction format she made us use where every detail has to have some deeper layer of meaning, and my classmates didn't understand when I was trying to make jokes in my writing and decided to assume I was stupid instead. I felt eaten alive. This time, everyone gushed about how great it was. I mean, workshops always start with saying what you think is working well in a piece anyway, but you can tell if everyone really liked a piece because they have so much to say. They thought it was funny and sweet and had all these brilliant things going on - some of them intentional on my part, some subconscious, and a few coincidental but I'll take them anyway. My one favorite line from all verbal and written feedback combined is: "I love the way you write about Calise, I feel like I'm falling in love with her with you."
Of course, as this is a little less than half of the current length of the essay, they couldn't see where I was going with it or which seemingly random details will turn out to be important - some even questioned whether Talease, interesting though she is, really matters to the story I'm telling, and oh how I wish I could answer that in the negative - so I'm impressed with the volume of useful feedback they were able to provide regardless. I felt bad having to split it up and make it less powerful, but I'd feel worse making them respond to 28 pages in one go. I was going to do this essay and another essay about something else, but this one will swell to fill as much space as I can give it, and it's what my heart needs me to write about. I've had to be very selective with details and try to choose representative ones that present a good picture and also take the time to dwell on key scenes and not just jump along from one point to another like "The Rise of Skywalker", and there's the whole show vs. tell balance and scene vs. summary balance and so on. My classmates are invested now and they're excited to read the second part and see how this adorable love story will play out.
Yeah... I feel bad about that.
I wish I could make up a different story, to satisfy them if not myself, but I can't because unlike anti-vaxxers, I have some integrity. So the second part is going to break their expectant, excited hearts. I feel like a box of puppies is looking up at me with such love and trust in their eyes as I'm about to shoot them all. I suppose this is a skill I can carry over to my preferred venue of fiction writing. I'll get people to love my characters and root for their success and read with baited breath to see what happens, and then I'll do terrible things to my characters, kill them off even, and my readers will cry and curse me and keep buying my books. I mean, I want my books to be funny, so I won't be too extreme with that direction. But it's a good skill to have and it looks like I have it. I feel so bad.
Since that one incident with the bootlickers, the floodgates have been opened and I've relapsed into being as rude to strangers on Facebook as I feel like, which is very. For example, the other day I finally had enough of this jackass:
I'm sure the thread has been deleted. If he responded at all, he probably said something really original about me not being Christlike. But one can always hope that I managed to prompt some legitimate introspection about his sad life.
But on the plus side, my last two discussion posts for Creative Nonfiction Writing weren't swear-filled rants. So I can be composed and mature sometimes when I feel like it. For one, Jennifer wrote, "I want to begin where the syllabus begins, with these words: What a strange world in which we find ourselves - isolated but connected, ordinary but extraordinary, temporary but permanent. If nothing else, the pandemic has forced us to live in the present moment because we simply cannot say for sure what the future might hold. While we know that art can only be made in the realm of pure presence, the grief that washes under all of our feet makes the creation of art difficult these days. I am often reminded of what Theodor Adorno said: 'There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.' Most artists would disagree - but I think we can all recognize in Adorno’s words that when faced with largescale trauma it is sometimes hard to see the relevance of art. And yet. What else can we do but sing even if the song is one of rage, dislocation or violence?
"I am asking everyone to think about whether their ability to create has been altered in the past year and if so how. I am also asking you to think about how, or even if, writing is important in these times - how or if it remains relevant. Should we write directly about the pandemic? At one point is it 'okay' to write about it? Can we write about something that we are living through and have no sense of distance? Or is it best to approach our grief through the side door of research or metaphor or fiction?
"And what about the fact that most of us are having trouble even focusing. How do we actually sit down and write?"
So I said,
See, it's not so much that I have a positive attitude as that I'm acutely aware of global suffering and how entitled Americans are. If it wasn't before, the rest of the world is now also acutely aware of how entitled Americans are.
The next discussion was organized by Kelsie and me, and we have to keep an eye on it and respond to posts until Thursday. Kelsie proposed an idea and I proposed some refinements and we settled on: "Think of a work of creative non-fiction (flash, essay, memoir, etc.) that has shaped you as a writer. What did you like about it? What stood out to you that was *different* from most of the genre and challenged the traditional ways of doing it? How do you try to emulate it as a writer?"
So I said,
Maybe I sound kind of holier-than-thou in both of these posts. I can't help it. I'm just being honest about my perspectives on things. But I think I meant similes, not metaphors, so I've embarrassed myself yet again.
I turned in a little less than half of my essay last week, so as not to force my classmates to critique 28 pages at once. We will workshop it on Thursday. Jennifer didn't mean to make Kelsie and me turn in our essays the same week we were in charge of the discussion, but these things happen sometimes. My essay, by the way, is entitled "Things That Rhyme With 'Elise'", so anyone who knows me very well can guess who and what it's about.
It occurred to me when I started working as a graduate instructor at Utah State University that maybe I should start to be more careful about the things I say online, lest I become cancel culture's latest victim. Speaking of cancel culture, I think Gina Carano is a garbage human and I'm not the slightest bit sympathetic to her, but I do think it's a shame that the future course of "The Mandalorian" will be so determined by real world politics and repercussions. Cara Dune is a cool character. She doesn't necessarily need to be in Season Three, but whether she is or not would ideally be determined by the natural evolution of the story and not by her actress spreading conspiracy theories on Twitter. So for a while I was more careful about the things I say online, but then I kind of forgot about that and just said whatever I want. And because I'm nobody, it never presented an issue until just recently.
It was weird for a few reasons. First, because this is the first time anyone has noticed or cared about my job, and suddenly they were all fixated on it. Second, because the parasites in the Salt Lake Tribune comments section tend to be of the liberal variety. I'd expect to be accosted by conservative parasites in the Deseret News comments section, but not here. Third - seriously? I can't emphasize enough how stupid Jared Tyler is to think I'll face any consequences from USU for this comment. It isn't even in the top thirty least flattering things I've written on social media about police officers. In fact, I have a 25-page essay that I plan to share with my Creative Nonfiction Writing class when my turns come, in which a substantial portion is devoted to explaining exactly what I think about police officers in general and Officer Nelson of the Logan Police Department (may he choke on a cactus) in particular. Oh no, I might get in trouble. I'm so worried.
Nick Savas is bad at stalking, though. This was the second time in a month or so that someone decided I must live with my parents because... I don't know, I guess the clever insults store they usually shop at ran out of clever insults. I didn't even bother to respond to him at the time, but to whomever it may concern, I moved to the opposite side of the country from my family a couple weeks after my eighteenth birthday, and as of July 11 I will have remained here for a decade. My parents, in the meantime, moved a bit closer, so I can see where someone like Nick Savas would get the misconception that I live in their basement and commute from Indiana to Utah every day, but no, I actually don't.
I get it - conservatives hate universities because they're bastions of liberal groupthink. (But somehow, at the same time, think that a university that's been actively promoting an anti-racism agenda for the last two semesters would punish me for accurately observing that police officers are pathological liars. Derp.) I can sympathize with this view, since I sometimes feel out of place in the English department myself, like an imposter who will be outed as not liberal enough. But their open contempt for education itself, and their wearing of ignorance as a badge of pride, is pretty nauseating. Note that Kevin Heffernan thinks "intellectual" is an insult. How else could they continue to say over and over that COVID-19 is a hoax, climate change is a hoax, evolution is a hoax, vaccines are a hoax, spanking is a normal and harmless way to discipline children, Trump won the last election, and so on? No wonder sociologist Jacob Rugh recently found that educated Latter-day Saints are leaning more Democratic. I'm not a Democrat, but anything that weakens the Republican cult's stranglehold on Utah is fine with me.
Utah, of course, has also put its contempt for teachers as people on full display during this pandemic. Utah thinks teachers are cheap, expendable babysitters. I get it, I wouldn't want to have my own kids at home all the time either, and I've never been more grateful to not have any than during the past year. But even that doesn't explain why parents in Utah have made national headlines for throwing literal temper tantrums about their children having to wear masks to school, or why they laugh and boo at teachers at town meetings who express concern for their own safety. As one who doesn't particularly value the opinions of people with fewer IQ points than fingers, I'm not offended or angered for my own sake about being on the receiving end of this harassment. But I think of my ex-neighbor, whom I still think the world of despite what she did to me, who's an aspiring teacher, and I think of the probability that these maggots will subject her to this crap as well because she has more brain cells in her pinky finger than they do in their collective skulls, and it pisses me right off.
Whatever you do, please don't forward this blog post to anyone at the university. I beg you.
This post was inspired by my recent feminist awakening and Craig Harline's presentation "What Happened to My Bell-Bottoms? How Things That Were Never Going to Change Have Sometimes Changed Anyway, And How Studying History Can Help Us Make Sense of It All".
The Judeo-Christian God is clearly not big on instigating immediate social change. The Law of Moses was a substantial improvement on the more punitive Code of Hammurabi, but looks absolutely barbaric by today's standards in most countries. In biblical times, slavery was as ubiquitous and crucial to the economy as wheeled vehicles are today, and instead of condemning it altogether, God was just like, "Be nice to your slaves." So Christians defended slavery as a divinely sanctioned institution for hundreds of years but eventually decided it was an obvious unthinkable evil and how could we have ever thought otherwise? When Jesus showed up, He upgraded the Law of Moses and taught principles for self-improvement and eternal life, but disappointed the Jews waiting for a Messiah by declining to do anything about the oppression and atrocities of the Roman government.
And then there are the Apostle Paul's comments about women. He clearly assigned women an inferior position to their husbands, but he did tell men to be nice and love their wives. Maybe he was just speaking his own sexist opinions, as many assume, but I'm willing to consider that maybe it was legitimately good, even inspired advice for the time and maybe it improved women's lives - and yet even then, it's inadequate for the twenty-first century and doesn't need to be defended as if it were written yesterday.
A Muslim couple came and spoke to a class I was in once. Among other things, they said that when Islam began, it was very progressive for the time on women's rights. The problem, they said, is when adherents stick with that origin and refuse to make any further progress. I like that thought and I think it also applies to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was ironically more feminist in the nineteenth century than the twentieth, perhaps as much because of as in spite of polygamy. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we pretend that the Church's teachings on gender roles have never changed, or feel compelled to defend wrong or at least obsolete attitudes and ideas as the Lord's will. With that in mind, I want to look at a couple of things that have changed and may need to continue to change. I should note that to my knowledge, the majority of Latter-day Saint women, and certainly the majority I've talked to personally about feminist stuff, feel happy with and empowered by their status in the Church, and I'm not trying to say they're wrong to feel that way or convince them not to feel that way. But I do think they deserve more.
In the nineteenth century, the Utah territory gave women the right to vote before anywhere else in the United States except Wyoming (until the federal government, in the process of persecuting the Church over polygamy, took it away). Throughout most of the country, men argued that women didn't need to vote because they would just vote the same as their husbands or because they had "moral authority" as a counterpart to men's actual authority. The idea that women don't need the same rights and privileges as men because they're special has, unfortunately, polluted our own rhetoric within the Church whenever someone wonders why they can't be ordained to priesthood offices, but at least we let them vote. And it was much easier for women to obtain a divorce in Utah than the rest of the country. And Brigham Young encouraged them to get jobs outside the home - more on that later. Martha Hughes Cannon took that advice to heart, becoming a physician and later defeating her own husband to become the first female state senator in the United States. She famously said, "A plural wife is not half as much a slave as a single wife. If her husband has four wives, she has three weeks of freedom every single month."
Certainly it was still a patriarchal religion and you could point out plenty of misogyny in the nineteenth-century Church as in the nineteenth-century everywhere else, but all things considered I think it did pretty good. The Victorian gender roles associated with it today largely settled in after it abandoned polygamy and tried to prove to everyone else that it subscribed to traditional American values like Victorian gender roles.
On Women in Marriage
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.