Saturday, December 6, 2014

Poetry of Potter: How J.K. Rowling Influences My Writing

One of my favorite genres of writing is fiction, another of my favorite genres is poetry.  After being assigned this essay, I went back and forth in my mind over the course of a couple of weeks trying to decide if I should choose to write about fiction or poetry .  Finally, I decided that I would incorporate both into this essay.

Poetry is my preferred genre to write in, I find it both challenging and invigorating to let words flow from my heart while using my mind to attempt to arrange words in a certain way, with the right rhythm, in the right order. Orchestrating a symphony of syllables, choreographing pronouns and prepositions to create images, invoke feelings and concoct sensations, poetry is where I currently invest my writing talents (outside of essays). Admittedly, one of the other reasons I prefer to write poetry is because of the brevity of its nature, compared with fiction.  This is exemplified in the short little nibblets of linguistic beauty that are found in haikus and limericks.  A few of the poems I am proudest of happen to be haikus. Perhaps this is a testament to my own novice and lack of compositional stamina when it comes to writing, but maybe one day I’ll grow and develop my endurance to be able to write novels.

One of the authors who has influenced, not only my writing, but my own life and the way I look at the world, is J. K. Rowling.  Although she is quite famous and relatively modern, her writing has spoken to me since childhood and for that it holds a profundity with me that rivals the impact of the works of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, or Oscar Wilde. As I’m writing this I realize that all four of these writers are British, and its no wonder that when I took CLEP exams for English literature and American literature I scored higher on the English literature exam.  I must be an anglophile, but I digress.

You could say that I basically grew up with Harry Potter. When I was in the fourth grade, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone  had just come out, and my language arts teacher started reading it to our class a few chapters at a time. I was immediately engaged and enraptured by the world that Rowling had created and I read the books and followed on with the story as I grew older.  The magical world to which Harry was introduced was something that I think anyone could be interested in, but to a young girl who regularly felt out of place and excluded, it was especially easy for me to relate. Harry was raised by his harsh, strict, boring and unloving aunt and uncle and for his whole childhood he had longed for a proper family and he had always been a bit weird and had welcomed weirdness where his family had shunned it. Although I have a loving family, I have always been a bit of an oddball. I won’t go so far as to say I’ve always been a loner, even if I had phases growing up when I didn’t have many friends, I have as an adult led a fulfilling social life. But even then I have always felt like I was different, (of course, we are all different, but) like I’ve never really been understood by those around me, like I was perceiving things about the world around me that others couldn’t or wouldn’t. So of course, when  I was a child reading Harry Potter and he receives a letter from a magical school called Hogwarts and it is revealed to him that he is actually a wizard and he is swept up into the fantastical eccentricity of the magical world, it was only natural for me to hope and wish as a child that when my eleventh birthday came that I would also receive a Hogwarts letter delivered by owl post.  Alas, eleven came and went and I received no letter and continued on clinging to my Harry Potter books, getting to know the characters and imagining myself in the settings and situations of the Harry Potter world.  Flying on broomsticks, meeting strange magical creatures, learning to cast spells and brew potions, all of those things enchanted me as a child, but more than that, it was Rowling’s exhibition of magic in simple everyday things that really sent my imagination into overdrive: dishes washing themselves, candies and sweets with magical properties, paintings and pictures that move and talk on their own, ordinary commonplace objects being used as “portkeys” for magical teleportation.  These were the charming parts of Rowling’s magical world that truly gave me the most pleasure.

Aside from being just entertainment, the Harry Potter books also contributed considerably to my own intellect and intelligence growing up.  Reading the books exposed me to a new dialect of english, a whole new lexicon of fresh vocabulary, and an amusing way to learn about literary devices such as allegory, anagram, anaphora, and alliteration.  Surely, there was good reason for my fourth grade teacher to use Harry Potter to help us become better readers and students, and many other educators have also recognized the seemingly endless bounty of learning that the Harry Potter books contain.  Professors Don and Alleen Nilsen of Arizona University wrote about Rowling’s clever creativity in coming up with names for people, places, and things (including spells) within the Harry Potter realm and her meticulous use of literary devices: “One reason that the Harry Potter books have such appeal to a worldwide audience is Rowling's rhetorical density as illustrated by how much meaning she can pack into the few short sounds needed to create a name.” Among such meaningful names as Flourish and Blott’s, Twillfit and Tatting’s, Dervish and Banges, sectumsempra, Gilderoy Lockhart, cruciatus, expecto patronum, Albus Dumbledore, Helga Hufflepuff and Tom Marvolo Riddle; one of the examples they cite is the name of one of the antagonists Draco Malfoy, whose name is a clever use of apposition because his first name reminds us of either a dragon, or something draconian; while his last name is a latin translation of “bad faith” (Nilsen 1&8.)  

Rowling’s dexterous and skillful talent with imagery is another one of the things I admire most about her writing and indeed, one of the things I find most poetically inspiring.  Here I have included an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which lusciously describes the “Room Where All Things Are Hidden”, one of the chambers created in the “Room of Requirement”.
“[Harry] gasped. Despite his haste, his panic, his fear of what awaited
him back in the bathroom, he could not help but be overawed by
what he was looking at. He was standing in a room the size of a
large cathedral, whose high windows were sending shafts of light
down upon what looked like a city with towering walls, built of
what Harry knew must be objects hidden by generations of Hogwarts
inhabitants. There were alleyways and roads bordered by teetering
piles of broken and damaged furniture, stowed away,
perhaps, to hide the evidence of mishandled magic, or else hidden
by castle-proud house-elves. There were thousands and thousands
of books, no doubt banned or graffitied or stolen. There were
winged catapults and Fanged Frisbees, some still with enough life in
them to hover halfheartedly over the mountains of other forbidden
items; there were chipped bottles of congealed potions, hats, jewels,
cloaks; there were what looked like dragon eggshells, corked bottles
whose contents still shimmered evilly, several rusting swords, and a
heavy, bloodstained axe.” (Half-Blood Prince 528.)

Rowling also has an ineffable talent for putting the most quotable words in her characters’ mouths. Since childhood I have logged the sayings of Albus Dumbledore and other characters into my own personal library of  memorable quotes. Some of my favorites are: “ If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” (Goblet of Fire 339.) and “Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” (Half-Blood Prince 564.)

My work has truly been influenced more by Rowling than by any other writer, and most especially is it exhibited in my poetry.  When we wrote one of our first journal exercises about where we write and why we write, I used Rowling’s “Room of Requirement” as my inspiration for my perfect place to write.  I also referenced the contrast between magic and muggles in my piece about why I write, saying, “Because it is one of the only forms of magic still used in this mundane muggle world.” I can only aspire to try to write with as much depth and meaning and versatility within my own poetry as Rowling does with her fiction.  One of the reasons I am still in love with this series even as an adult is because it has the power to still be fresh and new to me every time I read it again.  That is one of the marks of a true masterpiece of literature, film, or art: is if you can watch it, listen to it, read it, or see it again time after time, as a child and an adult, and always discover something new about it. As J. K. Rowling said herself, “The stories we love best do live in us forever”, and the Harry Potter series is a true exemplar of that for me.

Works Cited

  1. Nilsen, Don L. F., and Alleen Pace Nilsen. "Naming Tropes And Schemes In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter Books." English Journal 98.6 (2009): 60-68. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

  1. Rowling, J. K., and Mary GrandPré. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005. Print.

  1. Rowling, J K, and Mary GrandPré. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000. Print.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

3 Haikus

rhythmic thundering
Percy Sledge croons, lightning strikes
my dog sleeps calmly

a newspaper ball
an urban tumbleweed rolls
uphill on skid row

claws skitter at night
little critters in the walls
they find refuge here

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Anxiety, Depression, and Harassment

I just wanted to go to the museum.
That's all I wanted.
I just wanted to ride the metrorail without being harassed or annoyed by anyone. I just wanted to go enjoy a nice quiet, therapeutic time at the museum by myself without any awkward or unpleasant interactions with people.
I get off the train and start walking towards the museum, when a tall middle-aged black man sees me and says "Hey, Baby".
Since I had decided long ago not to put up with being spoken to this way, I turn and glare at him and I see his taken aback expression, and I say, confidently, "I'm not your baby." He immediately leans toward me and almost yells, "I said 'Hey LADY!". and I can see the signs of jaundice in his eyes as he glares back at me, affronted.
I immediately shrink back into myself, and with downturned eyes, I say sheepishly, "Oh. sorry. I misheard you..."
and the man looks at me with anger in his eyes before he stalks away.   In the same direction that I have to go.

Not wanting to appear as flustered as I am, I walk determinedly towards my destination, and halfway to the corner where I will have to cross, the man bends down to tie his shoe, so I am not walking in front of him.  I keep walking, afraid to look back. I stop at the corner and turn left, praying to Hod that the crosswalk sign will change so I can go before he gets level with me. It doesn't. After he passes me, I hear him.  Muttering out of the corner of his mouth back at me, he says, "I like the way that butt shake, though." And he saunters away.
At this moment, I'm enraged, offended, frustrated, scared, and humiliated all at one. I say nothing. I stand there on the corner, trying to cover myself with my cardigan, clutching onto my purse as a shield, not wanting to leave any other areas of my body open or visible, or vulnerable to comment.
Now, I sit in the public restroom at MFAH, in tears, feeling terrible about myself. Questions assault my heart, mind and soul. Is this my fault? Am I rude? Am I over-sensitive?  Should I have just ignored him in the first place?  Would I have avoided the entire disgusting exchange if I had just kept walking? Did I take what could have been a stranger's seemingly friendly greeting and turn it into street harassment because I was so sure he was being disrespectful? Was I too "eager to be offended"?  Maybe he would have ended up objectifying and disrespecting me even if I had ignored his initial address.
Either way, I feel like I never want to go out in public again.  Never want to be around people again, never want to be looked upon with a man's (or maybe even anyone's) eyes ever again. I wish I had an invisibility cloak. So I could go where I please and be free from staring, leering, comments, and come ons.
Just when I start to come out of my misanthropic carapace, just when I start to feel confident about myself.  A seemingly trivial moment with a stranger like this has the power to crush my self-esteem and increase my introvertedness, my desire for solitude-even hermitage. Guilt and shame weigh heavy on my heart.
I hate that man
I hate men like that
I hate when men behave like that.
I hate being so emotional.
I hate that PMS makes me (even more) so emotional.
I hate that I cry about (almost) everything.
I hate that I cry when I’m angry.
I hate that crying is seen as weakness.
I hate that being emotionally sensitive is seen as weakness.

I hate feeling everything.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stop Telling Women to Smile

Misogyny is still alive and well, even in ways that people don't recognize. Everyday just the way I hear men talk about women, and even (unfortunately) how some women talk about each other.  One of the ways biggest ways I've experienced it personally is from street harassment (sexual harassment outside the workplace).  Just yesterday I was walking down a hallway at school when this dirty looking older guy (who did NOT look like he was a student or a worker) looks at me and twitches his eyebrows then makes a kissy face at me as he passes me by.

I stopped putting up with that shit a long time ago and I immediately whipped around and told him, "That's disrespectful!" and he shrugs it off and mumbles some hurried apology, but I'm pretty sure he hadn't gotten that kind of reaction before from a woman he harassed.  

I know probably all of my female friends have experienced this type of behavior at some point, and I dunno about y'all but after each experience like that, not only do I feel extremely PISSED OFF, but I also feel disgusted.  When a man looks at me or says something to me in that way that's completely unwarranted, it makes me feel DISGUSTING. It makes me want to curl up into a ball and hide from the world, it makes me want to cover myself up and hide or wish that I had an invisibility cloak, because I feel violated without a man even touching me, he has managed to make me feel violated and gross. 
I think for women it's really important, besides standing up to guys who harass us, for us to spread awareness to our male friends and acquaintances that they need to realize that women do not exist just for their viewing pleasure. Even though most of our friends who are men would probably not speak to us in that way, that doesn't mean they don't still carry around the mindset of reacting to women they first meet with some type of comment about their appearance.

"Stop Telling Women to Smile" is a project working to raise awareness about street harassment all over the nation, and to challenge men everywhere to check themselves and change the way they view women.  Plenty of men are harassing women and they might be thinking they're actually giving us a compliment by saying something like, "Smile!" or "You look fine" or (my favorite) "aren't you a tall glass of water?" (or some other offensive reference to my height and vague comparison to a beverage).

Men aren't just going to stop thinking of women as objects, as property.  Even our most seemingly respectful guy friends might still harbor the mindset hammered into them by a patriarchal society and misogynistic media that women should immediately be appraised on their physical appearance (whether these ideas stay as only thoughts in their heads or not). We need to start letting men know that there is a fine line between a compliment and un-called for harassment.

So if you're also sick of men talking to you as if you exist solely for their aesthetic pleasure, and hearing everywhere speech that undermines women to just objects to be admired/judged/used, and you'd like to get involved in an organization to raise awareness and help stop street harassment, click the link above to learn about opportunities to put up posters in your area like the ones pictured.

Also, next time a man says something to you that makes you feel uncomfortable or harassed, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and say "Please don't speak to me that way, that is disrespectful."*, or just use any of the choice phrases from the posters. :]

*Unless you are in a situation/environment where you feel you may be in danger, then run.

Disclaimer:  all rights to photos belong to

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Governments, Revolutions and Social Media

The following is an argumentative essay that I wrote for my English 1302 (Research Writing) class. Although I focus mainly on events that occurred in Egypt, the themes and key points that I make are incredibly relevant to young Americans today, and I'd really appreciate if y'all could give it a read and a ponder and then give me some feedback. :] (WARNING: It's pretty long, so you might have to commit like 15 minutes to reading it. Otherwise, just read the last 4 or 5 paragraphs to get the gist.)

The Egyptian Revolution: Social Media and Government Response

As Americans, many of us love social media.  We love the quickness and ease with which we can communicate with our friends, share pictures and videos, and even share and discuss viewpoints of global issues, but many Americans may be unaware of social media usage in other parts of the world.  Particularly, just how highly useful social media has been in the Middle East in the past few years.  In what has been called “The Arab Spring”, several nations in North Africa and the Middle East have recently undergone dramatic revolutions and social media played more critical of a role than the average American may have guessed.  Specifically in Egypt, social media was vital to several different aspects of the people’s overthrow of President Mubarak in 2011.  However, as with any other revolution, the government in power at that time had a response to the uprisings.  In this essay I will argue that President Mubarak’s responses to the protests were extremely inappropriate attempts to maintain civil order, and on top of that, they were downright inhumane.

In the past three years Egypt has undergone extreme political revolution and national turbulence.  Beginning in 2011 with the mass mobilization of the public assisted by social media, which led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, followed shortly after by the election of Mohammed Morsi, and then barely a year after that, the opposition and attack on the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi and the military’s takeover of the government, Egypt has seen incredible volatility in the struggle for true democracy (Coates 1).  Because each of these events could be analyzed as a separate movement within a revolution, this essay focuses on the events surrounding the mass mobilization and overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, the government’s incredibly brutal response, and how substantively social media was involved.

After years and years of political discontent, disproportionate economic prosperity for the people, and a general stagnation of politics, the time was ripe in early 2011 for the people of Egypt to take matters into their own hands.  This however, was not a spontaneous outburst, it was a result of a culmination of dissatisfaction of the people and a strong desire for reform.  The people of Egypt banded together, assisted by social media in spreading and coordinating their movement, and through the sheer power in numbers were able to overthrow their own President, despite his desperate and violent attempts to quell the rebellion.

In order to fully understand the impact of the protests in January, 2011, I have provided some background information in this paragraph.  In Emad El-Din Shahin’s article “The Egyptian Revolution: The Power of Mass Mobilization and the Spirit Tahrir Square”, he asserts that although Egyptians have revolted numerous times throughout the modern age, none of those uprisings had the sheer power of numbers behind them like the 25 January Revolution (2).   Stefan Simanowitz asserted that when a group of people become fearless and empowered to change the politics of their nation through working together as a group, they are more disposed to becoming active and fervent about protesting to effect the change they desire (Editorial 1).  This was demonstrated in the mass mobilization of the January 25, 2011 uprisings.  The aggregate number of people estimated to have participated in the 18-day protests is around 15 million (Shahin 15).  The protests began in Tahrir square in Cairo on 25 January, 2011, and although they were mostly peaceful protests, Mubarak was forced to resign from his office on 11 February, 2011 (Coates 1).

Another reason the protests were so efficient and successful in ousting Mubarak was because of the diversity of the participants and the peaceful nature of the movement. It was essentially a “classless revolution” (Shahin 3).  Egyptians from all demographics and even adversarial political groups were able to successfully join together to overthrow Mubarak’s regime.  That may have to do with the usage of social media which would have made it possible for Egyptians far and wide to participate in the protests.  Also the protesters were able to agree to try to maintain peaceful protests at all times in order to garner sympathy for their cause,  “Peaceful… Peaceful” was their slogan when faced with the regime’s anti-riot crackdowns.  Now that I’ve explained the factors that made the protests so successful, I’ll extrapolate on another factor which surprisingly also secured their success:  Mubarak’s inappropriate and truly inhumane response.

Mubarak’s regime’s response to the movement was full of cruel violence and disregard for human rights, and fundamentally unsound reactions that instead of hindering or halting the revolution, catapulted it into success.  The first of these was Mubarak’s underestimation of the power of the people, and therefore, slow response to the uprisings.  According to Shahin, it took President Mubarak 4 days (29 January 2011) to publicly address Egypt and discuss measures to counter the movement (Shahin 19).  This was due in part to the fact that Mubarak’s advisors had convinced him at first that the protesters posed no threats, that they were just “Internet kids” (Shahin 19) and that the protests would disperse themselves in a few days.  This is a blatant example of the kind of arrogance and ego-centrism that is character to most dictatorships and corrupt regimes.  The inability to realize the potential power of the people and the lack of fear of mobilization of the people. Thomas Jefferson said "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” I believe that ideology is applicable to all forms of government and President Mubarak ignored and refuted that idea and that eventually led to his downfall.

Another way in which we can see how clearly inappropriate the government’s response was is the stark contrast between the peaceful protesters and the violence of the regime’s response.  The regime used several different tactics varying in the degree of bloodthirst to attempt to suppress the movement.  This included everything from anti-riot police brutality utilizing tear gas, rubber bullets, live bullets, and even mowing down protesters in police vehicles to unleashing government paid thugs armed to the teeth to mutilate, attack, and even kill the protesters.  These militia-type forces were not part of the Egyptian military or the police.  Apparently they were paid by the government to infiltrate Tahrir square and appear to be supporters of Mubarak, protesting against the protesters.  However these “protesters” were armed with knives, machetes, swords, Molotov Cocktails, and an assortment of firearms. They were encouraged to dispel masses of unarmed, peaceful protesters by using any means necessary, even deadly force.  It is reported that even the neighborhood thugs of Cairo took up arms against the government’s thugs and defended the unarmed protesters and helped push back the opposition (this struggle became known as the Battle of the Camel) (Shahin 19).  This type of anti-rebellion tactic is possibly the most egregious way for a government to suppress its people; by seeking out the poor and homeless not involved with the protests, and arming them and offering them money or food in exchange for their pledge to attack their own people. Fortunately, due to sheer masses the protesters were able to overcome all of the regime’s forces.  

This was due in part to another one of Mubarak’s blunders:  cutting off internet and wireless phone service.  This was done in an attempt to disrupt communications between the protesters but in actuality, it crippled Mubarak’s own police forces as they could not organize their efforts without using walkie-talkies and cell phones (Shahin 20).  Finally, another fatal mistake of Mubarak’s was attacking and attempting to shut-down foreign media correspondents such as Al-Jazeera, there was also reason to believe that the regime’s supporters had attacked and even sexually assaulted a female U.S. journalist who was covering the protests in Tahrir square (Shahin 4).  All of these actions by the regime only fueled the fire for the protesters and earned them more sympathy and support from the rest of the global audience.  They were desperate, violent attempts to hold onto power by a President, who did not see the power of the people coming.

The government’s supporters at that time might say that Mubarak’s reactions to the protests, albeit violent, were a necessary exercise in maintaining control and stability within a country.  However, if true democracy is the goal of Egypt, then a movement by the people of that magnitude would trump and override any policy or legislation put into place, because it would be a direct communication straight from the people to the government, expressing their dissatisfaction with the current government and their demand for change.  That is the pure essence of democracy.  The voice of the people, united as one group, calling the shots and taking their government into their own hands, and, result of the revolution notwithstanding, there are few other movements in history which exemplify the spirit of unity and democracy the way that the 25 January movement did in Egypt.  Personally, I think that many countries, even the US, could do with taking a leaf out of Egypt’s book in that regard.

As far as social media’s involvement in the Egyptian revolution, there are a few different viewpoints.  Author Johnny West asserts that the western media’s hype of social media in the Arab Spring is actually valid.  He argues that social media, aside from enhancing communications and organization of the protests, actually helped ignite the revolution because it opened the people’s eyes to the fact that everyone else was unhappy with the current regime as well and encouraged the people to take action.  (West in Haerens and Zott 34). 

  On the contrary, Evgeny Morozov claims that although he personally attended workshops in Cairo where activists were collaborating on ways to circumvent government censorship, the utilization of Facebook and other social media was only an additional tool for spreading word of the protests, and that the motivation and organization behind the protests had been formed and cultivated for years before the 25 January 2011 movement actually occurred (Morozov in Haerens and Zott 45).  Many others are of the same mind and claim that social media, like any other development of technology, is only a tool and there must be a human, organic motivation behind any action.  Technology is only what the user makes of it, meaning it can be used for good or evil.  Social media specifically, follows the same rules: a person can use Facebook to play Farmville, post statuses about their life and activities, chat with friends, look at other peoples’ profiles, pictures, events, etc. all these actions promoting and maintaining an idle, envious materialistic lifestyle.  Conversely, Facebook can also be used (and this is what we saw much of in Egypt) to share news stories, blog posts, links all promoting a person’s political views and/or spreading information and exposing crimes of a regime, as well as coordinating events and gaining support for a cause.  This was primarily the way that social media was used to assist in the escalation of the Egyptian revolution.  

It cannot be denied that Facebook did play a role in the build-up to the protests, as the first call for protests was posted by the “I Am Khalid” Facebook page which had 400,000 members in 2010 and had participated in several protest activities. Several other Facebook pages of similar groups as well as tens of thousands of blogs exposing the corruption of the regime sprang up in years leading up to Mubarak’s overthrow (Shahin 16).   The 25 January revolution “was probably the only revolution in history that determined its commencement and announced its date to the world online” (Esam Al-Amin qtd. in Shahin 16).  Therefore it is undeniable how vital a role social media was to this revolution.

Similar to Facebook’s usefulness in organizing and carrying-out the protests, Twitter had a particularly large role in broadcasting and communicating the development of the protests as they were happening, which in turn, garnered even more external support for the revolution, no doubt having an impact on its success.   “Social Media Evolution of the Egyptian Revolution”, an article by Alok Choudhary, William Hendrix, Kathy Lee, Diana Palsetia, and Wei-Keng Liao, published by Communications of the ACM, uses graphically displayed data to argue that while some people may not consider Facebook and Twitter to have been critical to the Egyptian revolution, the facts show that social media was used to bring the fervor of the revolution to a zenith (Choudhary, et al. 1).  The authors analyzed over 800,000 tweets related to the Egyptian revolution in order to gauge the trending impact and evolution as the protests continued. (Choudhary, et al. 2)  Twitter was particularly vital to provide rapid spread of news, updates and details to those in and outside of Egypt who otherwise may not have received the news due to Mubarak’s attempted shut-down of phone and internet services (Choudhary, et al. 7).  

To conclude, in the aftermath of Mubarak’s resignation there have been additional protests and overthrows within Egypt’s new and unstable military-controlled government (Al-Hourani 1).  It can be assumed that there are even more factors contributing to the motivation of the protests, and social media’s involvement in the subsequent turmoil of Mohammed Morsi’s ejection from his democratically elected office and the subtle militant government takeover that Egypt is now entrenched in (Coates 1). However, it is clear that the 25 January movement which initiated all these events, regardless of the long-term effect, was a fantastic example of mass mobilization of the people and a revolution that was considerably strengthened with the use of social media to empower the people and that President Mubarak’s cowardly responses to the protests were not at all an appropriate means of maintaining civil order.

I am aware that some Americans of the social-media generation might be of the opinion that Facebook/Twitter is “not the place for discussing politics, religion, etc”  and would rather everyone “kept their opinions to themselves” in such social media forums.  But I would argue that if those people could see the potential power that social media has given the people to affect change in these revolutions in the middle east in only the past few years, they would realize that we have even more potential to use social media to that same end here in the U.S., since social media is vastly more frequently used by the American people.  I would also argue that the idea that in order to maintain a peaceful society, people should “never discuss religion or politics” is the most cowardly excuse for staying complacently uninformed and comfortably uninvolved in the control of our own future.  Furthermore, it is that very idea which, when put into practice, becomes an act of essentially handing over the rights of the people to a tyrannical government, an unfortunate result that is seen in many countries all over the world today.  I do concede, however, that each country is different, and each government may have different degrees of censorship over wireless communication and social media.  Therefore, the way social media were used for social activism in Egypt may not be feasible or at all similar to social media’s potential usefulness for activism in any other given country. But, if we can all come together and join forces peacefully and use social media like the Egyptians did in 2011, we could possibly turn the tide and, in the future, prevent more dictator-controlled governments from enforcing brutal police violence and heinous disregard for human rights on innocent people like President Mubarak’s regime did in 2011.

Works Cited
Coates, Ashley. “Egypt: Timeline of unrest; The optimism of the Arab Spring has given way to a fresh wave of violence and dissent”. The Telegraph. Wednesday 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Haerens, Margaret, and Lynn M. Zott. The Arab Spring. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. Print. 3 Sept. 2013.

Shahin, Emad El-Din. "The Egyptian Revolution: The Power Of Mass Mobilization And The Spirit Of Tahrir Square." Journal Of The Middle East & Africa 3.1 (2012): 46-69. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.

Sharaf Al-Hourani, et al. "HOW THE MILITARY WON THE EGYPTIAN ELECTION. (Cover Story)." Time 180.2 (2012): 28-34. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.

“Watching a Drama Play Out in Egypt” Editorial. The New York Times. Saturday, 6 Jul. 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2013.

"Social Media Evolution Of The Egyptian Revolution." Communications Of The ACM 55.5 (2012): 74-80. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the Power of Words

I was just thinking about something my dad, Matthew Jackson, used to tell me and my siblings when we were kids.  If we were sick, or had a stomachache, we would complain, "Daddy, my tummy hurts!" and on most occasions he would reply, "Well, tell it to stop!"

At the time I viewed this as my dad being unconcerned with my impending illness (when really it's just his smart-ass way of speaking, and is not out of the norm). But thinking about that today, as an adult, I see it as a very powerful encouragement.

Not to say that all parents should start disregarding their children's symptoms, but, I when I analyze that phrase, "tell it to stop", I realize that even though it wasn't my dad's intention at the time, the very idea of what he is suggesting is very empowering.

Now, when I think back on his "medical advice", I realize just how applicable this command is my life in the matter of spiritual warfare. Many of you reading this may not believe in the idea of spiritual warfare (the forces of heaven and hell battling and thus affecting our physical world), but I believe very strongly in it.  I am aware that the devil moves and plots and schemes constantly, looking for ways to corrupt us, bring us down, shatter our faith. Due to that fact, it is essential and imperative that I also believe that God works, encourages and plans constantly, to build us up in our faith, bring us closer to him, and to protect and empower us with his Holy Spirit.

Recently in my life I have been blessed to be empowered and encouraged in my beliefs by using my faith as a weapon against the enemy in everyday life. This may seem odd to some of you, the idea of verbally commanding evil spirits to quit interfering with my life. But honestly, it is real, and it works.

One example of a situation like this happened several months ago one day when I could not find my ID, I had looked absolutely everywhere, torn my apartment apart, searched in my truck, retraced my steps from my truck to my apartment.  I prayed, "Please, God, help me find it, please!"  I looked everywhere I could think to look, but it was nowhere to be found. I felt distressed, hopeless, and extremely frustrated, and finally I broke down crying on the floor of my closet. I felt like God was not helping me, that he didn't want to help me. I felt helpless. But then an idea came upon me, and I thought, "What if this is exactly what Satan wants? What if he wants me to feel helpless and abandoned, like God doesn't care for me?" and then I got angry, and I literally shouted out in the middle of my closet, "You have no authority here! I bind you in the name of Christ, you may not take my things! You have no authority to steal my property, Satan. In the name of Jesus Christ, give it back!" I know it sounds silly. and I'm sure would have been even sillier to see, but after a few moments I suddenly thought of one more place to look. In my yoga pants. And there it was! I immediately thanked God for helping me, and I knew, that even though it seemed like he wasn't there, that he had helped me after all by making me realize the power of his Holy name, and recognizing when Satan is at work.

Now, I can understand how some people may think, "What's the big deal? she lost her ID, and then she found it, isn't it all just coincidence? Isn't it kind of eccentric to believe that Satan could be behind something as insignificant as losing an ID??" and I used to believe the same thing. But let me share another instance with you where I spoke against the Devil at work.

I was driving home from the chiropractor one late afternoon, and it was a mild, but sunny day in San Diego, and I was in the middle of stop-and-go traffic, when my truck started to overheat. I'd had issues with it overheating before, as I may have told some of my friends who may be reading this, even though the radiator had been replaced immediately after I bought the truck, anyway, the mechanic details aren't entirely revelant so I'm not going to elaborate on them. Anyway, I immediately turned my heat on full blast to try to reduce the heat from the engine, but the temperature didn't go down, so I started to try to get off of the freeway, so that I could pull my truck over and let it cool down, but, in stop-and-go traffic, this was very difficult and I was worried that every second I had the engine on with the temperature gauge nearing the "H" that my engine was closer to melting or being ruined or something. When I was finally able to get off the freeway I pulled over and parked my truck and turned the engine off and let the heat keep blowing, but even after 15 minutes of this the temperature still wouldn't go down. And then I was reminded of part of a book I read, "This Present Darkness" by Frank Peretti, where one of the main characters is driving, on her way to something extremely urgent, and suddenly her engine fails for no reason, while at the same time, although invisible to her, a demon had thrust it's sword into her car's engine, but after being defeated by an angel, her car returns to normal and works again.

And so, I prayed. I prayed for God to help me. and then I exclaimed "In the name of the Holy Spirit of God, I command any evil spirit away from my truck! You are not allowed to tamper with my truck! In the name of Christ, begone!" and sure enough, after about 30 seconds, my temperature gauge dropped suddenly back to the middle.

God gives us authority to defend ourselves against the enemy.  The more we use that authority, the stronger our faith grows, and the less fear we have of evil. :]

Now, I know what some of you might think, "It's crazy to think that the devil is behind every little bad thing that happens to you". But, why is that crazy?  What is so crazy about recognizing that evil is at work in the world? What is crazy about believing that, yes, the Devil is out to get you?

I think it is difficult for some people to realize this, because it is scary. It really is. It's scary to think about. But once you accept it, and have faith that God is sovereign, and good prevails, it's not so scary after all. I find it empowering, actually. Because I know that God has my back.

I refer to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Growing up, my parents didn't like me reading these books because they contained witchcraft. Although that is true, I have found that I grow more knowledgeable and more strong in my relationship with God because of these books and movies. To me, they examplify many valuable theological beliefs.  In "the Order of the Phoenix" there are two very important themes that are played out that I will bring up here.

First, is that throughout the movie, Harry's mind is being frequently riddled with disturbing dreams and eventually visions. After bringing this up to Dumbledore, he begins taking lessons with Professor Snape on training his mind, and strengthening it to protect himself from Voldemort infiltrating his thoughts. Unfortunately, Harry does not succeed in this and Voldemort does, at the end of the movie, use his evil powers to get into Harry's head and set a trap. But, during his training, Professor Snape tells Harry over and over, "Strengthen your mind, guard your emotions! Any memory that the Dark Lork has access to he will use as a weapon against you!" And, isn't that exactly what Satan does? He will use any bad memory, any insecurity, any weakness in our heart that he can find to take us down, to break our spirit, to shatter our faith. 

The other point I want to bring up, is that, throughout the movie, the Ministry of Magic (their government, basically) keeps trying to cover up the fact that Voldemort has returned. The Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, goes to ridiculous lengths to quash any leak of the truth. He insists that Harry and Dumbledore are both crazy and that it's all some sort of notorious scheme to bring him down, his fear makes him paranoid. He is so afraid to accept the truth that he ostracizes both Harry and Dumbledore, and anyone else who tries to convince him.  But that is exactly what Voldemort wants. Voldemort wants everyone to deny his return, that way his only enemies are isolated, cast out, he wants them to be seen as the threat, not him. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the movie:

 Luna Lovegood: [about her father] We believe you, by the way. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and you fought him, and the Ministry and the Prophet are conspiring against you and Dumbledore.
Harry Potter: Thanks. Seems you're about the only ones that do.
Luna Lovegood: I don't think that's true. But I suppose that's how he wants you to feel.
Harry Potter: What do you mean?
Luna Lovegood: Well if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it's just you alone you're not as much of a threat.

That is exactly why Satan does not want people to believe that he is at work, he wants to keep the truth hidden.

Anyway, those are just a few of the things I think about, and that I love about the movie, and thoughts and ideas and experiences that I wanted to share with you all.

I hope that some of what I've written will help someone, somehow, in their walk with God. :]

Supporting scriptures:

Mark 16:
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they[b] will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Revelation 12:10
for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Ephesians 6:11-13:
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.